Tilapia farming in Kenya and Tanzania can be profitable!

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By Milthon Lujan

Utrecht.– Larive International, coordinator of FoodTechAfrica, and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, are excited to join forces to boost tilapia farming in East Africa through a data-driven approach. Currently the Tanzanian aquaculture production contributes to only one percent of Tanzanian fish consumption; while its climate is ideal for fish farming. The demand for fish is rapidly rising due to population growth and rising incomes. In Kenya aquaculture’s contribution to total fish consumption is only 10% (2016). The aquaculture sector in Kenya and Tanzania has the potential to become a significant source of affordable, high-quality protein; to reduce poverty, provide employment and contribute to gross domestic product.

Larive and IDH aim to increase the number of profitable tilapia farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, whilst making more efficient use of natural resources. Data is collected and analyzed, both at farm level and on the market side, to create farming protocols and simple decision-making tools. With practical tools and examples to follow, farmers are better equipped to farm profitably and sustainably. Best practices are proactively shared, with guidance being disseminated to a larger audience.

Cooperation in Tanzania

In Tanzania, an estimated 70% of the smallholder tilapia farmers are currently loss making. Conditions for farming fish differ per region and expertise about which farming practices suit which conditions is limited, and fish farmers rarely keep track of farming metrics. As risks are high, financial institutions lack the appetite to start investing in aquaculture. There are limited good examples to show how farming may be done successfully. Yet such good examples are crucial to boosting the sector.

Larive and IDH aim to create a replicable example of successful tilapia farming in Tanzania. At farm level, data is collected and combined with market analysis on the Tanzanian fish market. Farmers are trained on the importance of data collection and the use of farming protocols. Implementation of best practices are expected to improve the Feed Conversion Ratio, survival rates and ultimately, the profitability of the farmer.

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Cooperation in Kenya

In Kenya, the number of active tilapia farmers decreased significantly over the past years. Most farmers in Kenya practiced subsidized farming; they received fingerlings and feed; but have abandoned their ponds after the subsidy period ended. This project showcases different farming models: an intensive recirculation aquaculture system; a semi-intensive farm; and an extensive pond farm. Farmers are trained to collect key data on their management practices, combined with data on demand and market prices.

The data is leveraged to indicate the most suitable aquaculture practices and farming system given the local circumstances. Lessons learned are shared in a training for Members of the Aquaculture Association of Kenya (AAK). The results of this project will be shared with a variety of stakeholders including financial institutions.

Wouter van Vliet, Director of Larive indicates “Working with IDH provides us the unique opportunity to leverage the lessons we have learned in developing the aquaculture sector in East Africa with our consortium FoodTechAfrica. Having realized key building blocks in Kenya and Tanzania, including the first aquafeed facility and the first certified RAS farm, our team is now zooming in on the farm-level skills that are needed to drive the sector forward. Farm management and having the data and skills to do ‘the right things’ are critical to turn a stab at fish farming into a successful and profitable venture”.

Flavio Corsin, the Program Director Aquaculture at IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative: “There are successful examples of fish farming in East Africa. However, those examples cannot be simply replicated as farming and market circumstances change in different locations. By adopting a data-driven approach we can understand what the factors for success for different farmers are as to accelerate their progress towards profitability

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Your feet will take you away from home, but your stomach will bring you back

Both Larive and IDH are convinced that aquaculture is part of the solution to address food security in East Africa. Local production for local market. Luckily, the wheel does not need to be reinvented. Rather, leveraging the expertise of leading industry players and local examples is the way to go. A farmer is most likely to copy a profitable neighboring farmer, having shown to be doing the right things. Right up to the point where tilapia consumed in East Africa is a local product, once more.

For more information on this project, contact Iris Boom or Lisa van Wageningen

About Larive

Larive is a business development advisory firm specialized in assisting companies in developing and implementing their market entry or expansion strategies in(to) high-growth emerging markets. Larive International is the parent of the Larive Group, a license-based network with exclusive members in 30 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, CEE and Turkey.

Larive regularly establishes consortia to address a market opportunity in an emerging market. Larive is initiator and coordinator of FoodTechAfrica, a multi-annual program focused on the development of the aquaculture sector in East Africa ( The consortia includes leading companies with expertise across the entire aquaculture value chain, to assure effective and successful implementation of the joint goals.

Larive and its FoodTechAfrica Partners organize an Aquaculture in East-Africa Celebration Event the 23rd and 24th of April in Nairobi Kenya. Goal of the event is to connect different aquaculture stakeholder, to celebrate the achievements so far, and to initiate a call to action to boost aquaculture activities in East-Africa. Interested or keen for more information? Please contact Iris Boom.

About IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative

IDH brings together businesses, companies, governments and NGOs to combine their interests and power in sustainable production and trade of tropical commodities. We convene, (co-)finance and manage large programs to accelerate transitions toward sustainability. Headquartered in the Netherlands and funded by different governments and foundations, IDH delivers scalable, economically viable impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. IDH operates globally in 12 different industry sectors ranging from coffee and tea to cotton and soy and encourages joint investment in innovative models to realize long-term solutions for environmentally and socially sustainable production.

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Since 2008, IDH is orchestrating change towards responsible aquaculture. We co-founded the ASC together with WWF and accelerated ASC certification. We upgraded 630.000 MT, an equivalent of 250 Olympic swimming pools, of tilapia, shrimp and pangasius production towards sustainability.

Source: IDH

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